Teaching Your Children – and Yourself! – Shakespeare

My kids have had the fantastic experience of performing in a Shakespeare play with our local homeschool group so we already had our eye on the Bard, but I loved experiencing “How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare” by Ken Ludwig.  This is a hands-on, BRAIN-on approach to reading, interpreting, understanding, reciting, and memorizing key passages from the Bard’s best works.  One chapter builds on the next to move from plays that are easier to understand to more complex stories as you and your children get an introduction to and overview of Shakespeare’s work.

The focus of the book is memorizing the key passages.  I really like the memorization steps involved because I feel like to be able to recite something from memory makes it your own in a completely different way from simply being familiar with it.  My kids are proud of being able to recite passages from Shakespeare and love to use them in conversation or when discussing another subject.  It’s something they don’t get a lot of from other sources, so this was a great addition to our homeschooling lives.

I also think the entire structure of the book is set up in a great way to work and learn right along with my kids, which is their favorite part of homeschooling (well, that and the fact that their young brains memorized the passages faster than my old brain did!).


** This book was provided to me for the purposes of this review by Random House.  The opinions are my own. **

Review: Fine Art Pages from Classical Composers Monthly

One of the best things about homeschooling and being with your kids as they learn, grow, and explore every day is realizing that the world is teeming with possibilities.  Everywhere you look are new ideas, different approaches, and fabulous things to learn and try.

That’s also one of the hardest things about being with the kids.  I am an optimistic packrat of educational ideas.  My Pinterest boards are overflowing with activities, my bookshelves are crammed with books, my closets are bursting at the seams with fabulous materials, and my brain is stuffed with all the things I truly want to do with the kids, because Everything is so great!

Deciding what we can realistically fit into our days, and what has to be left aside, can be heart-wrenching for mamas like me who see the good in every opportunity.  My kids didn’t get to do tennis lessons or archery this year because we just couldn’t make the time in our schedule, and my grand plans for Art Appreciation were winnowed down to a few museum trips.

Of course those few museum trips were delightful and definitely valuable, but I always wish I could do more.

Erica at Classical Composers Monthly has created a product to try to help out with this puzzle: Fine Art Pages.

image from Classical Composers Monthly

Fine Art Pages by Classical Composers Monthly is a downloadable PDF of ideas followed by 25 printable cards.  Each card contains a large image of a famous work of art; beneath the image is a list of information including the artist, date, materials, and the current home of the work, as well as an interesting fact about the work or the artist.

To see more information about the Fine Art Pages and look at a sample, click here.

Erica’s basic plan for using these cards is super-simple and low-key. Hang them in your house. That’s it.

Hang them by the toilet, or on the back door, or in the hallway.  Hang a few or a lot.  Just hang them up and let the kids soak it in.  Maybe you’ll make a bit of a game out of it – asking the kids at dinner if they can name the artist of the painting that’s hanging in the upstairs hall, or tell you something interesting about the painting that’s hanging by the toilet.  Maybe the new art hanging on your walls will inspire questions, or conversations, or give the kids the desire to make some art of their own.

Whatever comes of it, I’ll know that at least my kids are seeing this art, and even if I don’t have time to discuss it in any depth, they will become familiar with the works and the names of the artists.  I remember vividly the print that hung on my parents’ bedroom wall when I was little: it was Young Mother Sewing, by Mary Cassatt.  I really felt connected to the painting after all those years of seeing it on the wall, and it is still one of my favorites.  I can’t help but smile and feel my heart fill any time I see it anywhere else.

image from Metropolitan Museum of Art

Hopefully my kids – and your kids too – will relate to at least one of the pictures from Fine Art Pages in the same way.  Someday, my daughter Jenga might be visiting a museum and say, “Hey!  I loved this painting when I was little and it was hanging across from the toilet!”  It’s that connection, that familiarity, that I think is the best piece of the simple but solid Fine Art Pages.

Fine Art Pages by Classical Composers Monthly is available this week at the introductory price of $9.95 for 25 cards.  Click here to order now!

This product was provided to my family for the purposes of this review.

Listerine Oral Care Challenge Begins!

It’s fruitcake season… taffy season… candy cane season… sugar cookie season… all that sugar is all the more reason for us to pay extra attention to taking care of our teeth in December.  What great timing that our family got chosen to participate in the Listerine / Reach Oral Care Challenge this month!

The kids were tickled the afternoon that we received a package of Listerine mouth rinses, including two bottles of regular rinse, a bottle of their “Zero” rinse with no alcohol (great for me, because I can’t stand the intensity of regular mouthwash), and two for the kids (one with Barbie and one with Phineas and Ferb).  We also received a selection of Reach brand flosses and toothbrushes (including Barbie, Phineas and Ferb, and Batman).  Our challenge is for everyone in the family to 1 Brush, 2 Floss, & 3 Rinse twice a day for three weeks.

The kids and I have generally been good about brushing twice a day, and I try to remember to make sure we get flossed at night most nights, but none of us have been using mouthwash regularly (even though a few years ago our dentist recommended it for then-7-year-old KarateKid – he worked through one bottle and then we forgot about it).  I’m not even going to begin to describe MechDaddy’s dental routine… or lack thereof… let’s just say it’s a good thing he gets a nice, deep clean every six months at the dentist!

I’m hoping that we can piggyback this new challenge with the other daily reminders in December (advent calendars in the morning and our one-more-link countdown chain at night) to help us all remember to take a little more time for our teeth.

Along with the products to try, we received some information on the importance of oral care and some ways to make it engaging for kids.

A healthy smile reflects a happy child and no one enjoys a kid’s smile more than a parent.  It is alarming, however, that despite parents’ best efforts, 50 percent of children will have a cavity or filling between the ages of five and nine. Candy and soda are common culprits.  However, some perceived healthy snacks such as fruit juice and milk can also be the source of cavities.   The American Academy of Pediatric Dentists recommends parents schedule an appointment with a dentist as soon as the first tooth appears.

In general, we got some good advice, although – I don’t know about your dentist, but mine would have laughed his head off if I tried to schedule an appointment for 18-week-old KarateKid when his first tooth popped through!  In fact, my practice didn’t even want to take him at two (a commonly recommended age) but did wind up agreeing to take him then to just peek in his mouth and brush his teeth since he’d had his teeth so long by then.  He didn’t start regular cleanings until three, and GoGoGirl followed at a similar age.

The kids are excited to rip open the products and try them out, so I’ll be back in three weeks to let you know how we did – how the kids liked the brushes, flosses, and rinses, and how well we were able to stick to our new routine.

(You probably figured this out, but I’m required to tell you that I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of Listerine and received product samples to facilitate my review and a promotional item to thank me for taking the time to participate.)


OxiClean Tackles Three (Make That Four) Mess Makers

I was pleased to be a part of the Mom Central OxiClean Blog Tour in September.  If you’ve read my venting, angsty post about September, you’ll know that I needed all the help I could get!  We had catastrophic flooding in our area, as well as other snafus, and life got very messy.

Mom Central and OxiClean sent me a large container of the OxiClean Versatile Stain Remover powder and a mixing, stain-soaking bucket to work with.  I would love to be able to share before-and-after pictures with you, but I just wasn’t thinking about taking the before shots during our most messy moments.  I’m sorry, but I’m sure you can visualize and sympathize as I tell you about just a few of the ways that OxiClean came to the rescue in September with my three (make that four!) mess makers…

Mess Maker #1 is just 7 months old and interested in eating solid foods – and often, interested in spitting them back out, too!  OxiClean rescued two of my t-shirts and three of BabyNewHope’s bibs from baby food and formula stains – these can be tough if they’re not treated quickly, and treating stains wasn’t always at the top of my list!  One of my shirts in particular sat in the hamper for two days before I remembered it, so I soaked it overnight in the soaking bucket, washed it the following day, and the stains came out.

Mess Maker #2 is 4 1/2 years old and has a passionate love of markers.  Did you know that “washable” markers… sometimes aren’t?  OxiClean helped save a pair of GoGoGirl’s light pink pajama pants from the reds and blues and browns and blacks of a pack of markers, a ream of construction paper, and a distracted mom.  I did catch this messy incident pretty quickly, though, so I used OxiClean in the soaking bucket to hand-wash the pants, and most of the marker came right out.  The marker that was left did come out in the wash, to which I added OxiClean with our regular detergent.

Mess Maker #3 is 9 years old and thinks he’s a nomadic hunter-gatherer.  In September alone, he’s brought me mud stains, grass stains, berry stains, wild grape stains, flood water marks, ground-in chalk, yucky stains from picking up garbage scattered by those crazy skunks, and more.  My only complaint here is that OxiClean does not also sew ripped pant legs!  Hmm, something to work on.  I was most impressed that it took out the squished wild grapes from the bottom of a t-shirt after soaking and washing.

Mess Maker #4 is 35 years old and tackles home improvement projects – even just the removal of an old fridge – with gusto and a crowbar.  OxiClean has been tried on a pair of MechDaddy’s khakis that got a mysterious oil/grease stain recently.  The stain did lighten in the wash, but didn’t come out completely, so I have them soaking again.  I have been reading up on user suggestions for removing carpet stains using OxiClean, because MechDaddy and the kids have been known to track in sludge from outdoors.  What do you think?

Overall, I’ve been impressed with the soaking power of OxiClean.  When we’ve used it in the past, I only used it as a laundry additive and didn’t think to pre-treat with it.  As chaotic as the past month was, being able to save a few pieces of clothing from the rag pile did make me feel better, thanks to OxiClean.

I’m pretty sure you can already tell, but I’m required to tell you point blank that I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of OxiClean and received OxiClean items to facilitate my review and a promotional item to thank me for taking the time to participate.

Who Is Simon Miller? {movie preview}

I had the opportunity this week to preview the new Family Movie Night movie… Who Is Simon Miller?

// Get the Who Is Simon Miller widget and many other great free widgets at Widgetbox! Not seeing a widget? (More info)

This action-packed spy movie – suitable for the family to watch together – premiers tomorrow, August 6th, at 8 pm on NBC.

Here’s the plot: When unassuming geologist Simon Miller mysteriously disappears one night, the Miller family is thrown into a desperate search to find him. Simon’s wife Meredith and their two kids, Sarah, 18, and Kevin, 15, frantically search Simon’s office for information. When they find a stash of passports, all with Simon’s picture but each with a different alias, they realize that their father has been keeping more than a few secrets. Who is Simon Miller? And what has he gotten himself – and now his family – into? Not sure they can even trust the Dad they thought they knew, the Millers embark on an international mission to get him back. It’s a heart-pounding adventure that tests the limits to which families will fight for each other. (The movie stars Robyn Lively, Loren Dean, Skyler Day, Drew Koles, and Christine Baranski.)

GoGoGirl and I watched this movie together one night while KarateKid was at karate.  She enjoyed it, but – at 4 – didn’t really follow the spy plotline or understand how the characters were moving from country to country.  I think KarateKid (who is 9) will enjoy the movie a lot more than she did!  I liked seeing the characters in different European cities with the famous landmarks in the background, and I think that would spark a lot of discussion with KarateKid.

I do like the new Family Movie Night from P&G and NBC.  I think a lot of the stuff on tv – especially in the summer – isn’t appropriate for families.  In fact – I even like that this movie was a little too old for my 4-year-old.  So much of the “family entertainment” is really aimed at the younger crowd and so doesn’t hit the mark with older kids or tweens.  This movie might not be great for the preschool set but it’s something that older kids will enjoy watching with their parents.

Let me know if you tune in tomorrow!

I wrote this review while participating in a campaign by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of P&G and received a promotional item to thank me for taking the time to participate.

African Tales: The Lion’s Deceit

My kids have a special love for tales from Africa – South Africa in particular, because that’s where my dad has lived and worked – but they enjoy many different African tales.  We were recently sent a copy of The Lion’s Deceit by Mpho Otukile to review.

A lazy lion goes against his real nature by tricking other animals to get some food without hunting.  Will the lion get away with his plot?

In this story, the lazy lion decides to lay low in his den and send out word (via the fox) that he is sickly.  One by one, the animals come to visit the sick lion, draw closer as he moans and groans, and are snapped up to be his dinner.  Eventually, the jackal is the one who realizes that although there are plenty of prints leading up to the lion’s den… there aren’t any leading away from it!  He spreads word to the rest of the animals and the jig is up.  The lazy lion has to return to hunting!

My kids enjoyed the story quite a bit, and we had a nice time talking about the moral of the story, as they saw it.  (“You can’t get away with being lazy!”)  It also stirred up a renewed interest in African tales and we pulled out several of the other books on our shelves.  That led to a great afternoon of comparing the various stories and picking our favorites.  KarateKid especially loves the always-clever jackal, and loves that he’s featured in this story.

Now, I’ll be honest: The Lion’s Deceit is obviously published by a small publisher; the illustrations are done on a computer and are a little off-putting to me, and the words are printed in a white-and-orange font.  (You can preview two pages of The Lion’s Deceit here.) The book itself is physically hard to open all the way flat, and some of the illustrations and occasionally bits of text are hard to make out down in the spine.  Even though we enjoyed the story, it’s not a very pleasing book in a physical sense.

However, I do really support what the author is doing.  From the book:

Mpho Otukile comes from Botswana, in the Southern part of Africa where she grew up listening to stories told by the village elders at night while sitting around an open fire.  As much as she was entertained, these stories also instilled some moral lessons about life.

The author now lives in Winnipeg, Canada and is writing these stories to pass them to her daughter and other children.

I have several good friends (and family!) who are published authors or are trying to get published.  I would much rather see stories coming out in any form; a slender paperback with computer illustrations is better than not hearing the story at all.  Mpho Otukile founded a small publishing company, Village Life Books, just to get these stories out there, and I support her efforts!  From her website:

Storytelling in Africa is maintained by oral tradition. The stories play a very important role in the lives of the children. They help solve problems and teach moral values. Without grandparents and elders to tell the stories, the stories are often lost.  Village Life Books provides a means to preserve these stories in a modern way.

We will certainly keep The Lion’s Deceit in our collection of African tales.  I look forward to the next release from Village Life Books (The Elephant’s Pride in 2012).  I would encourage any of my friends who might enjoy this tale to support Ms. Otukile and independent publishing in general by purchasing the $9.99 book directly from her website or from Amazon.  You can also pick it up from CreateSpace, where you can use coupon code 2LU4EXJM to get 10% off.

This review was sponsored by MamaBuzz and Village Life Books, who provided me with a copy of The Lion’s Deceit to review.  Thanks!

Happy Mother’s Day: Treasuring Everyday Joy

Happy Mother’s Day to Mothers and Caregivers everywhere!

It seems that Mother’s Day, like most other major holidays, can be loaded with all kinds of emotion and not always easy for us moms to handle.  Like many of my online friends, I am:

  • a biological mother, having given birth to KarateKid in June 2002
  • a woman who has struggled with secondary infertility
  • an adoptive mother, having welcomed GoGoGirl in October 2007
  • a daughter without a mother since December 2003
  • a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom, and loving it

There have been lots of ups and downs in my journey, and to try and handle each emotion appropriately on just one day seems like an insurmountable task.  Just for starters, this morning I was thinking about pregnancy, giving birth, family size, infertility, adoption, not knowing my daughter’s biological mother, missing my daughter’s foster mother, missing my own mother and my grandmothers… up and down and up again.  And then it was time for breakfast!

It’s time to take a deep breath and remember that although it’s a holiday, it’s still just a day, like any other day.

My days are filled with joy.

Apr 09 Skirt 3

We dance in the driveway.

Apr 16 kids from H

We walk in the stream.

July 07 Foamerator 1

We blow bubbles.

Aug 16 Sand 3

We play in the sand.

Oct 20 muffin tin halloween

We eat,

finger puppets

and we play,


and we wear fancy clothes.

I treasure every day with my kids, because there were moments when I thought I wouldn’t get here.  I love their sweet hearts and their wacky imaginations.  I try to make a game or a celebration out of every day, because the joy is in the living.

This post was inspired by the Johnson’s “Treasuring Everyday Joy” campaign.  Johnson’s has two current promotions at their Facebook page:

a. With every “promise” (“like”) made at  facebook.com/johnsonsbaby, Johnson’s will donate $1 to the March of Dimes.
b. Johnson’s will host a series of photo contests on its Facebook page beginning in May. Selected monthly winners will receive one of a variety of prizes and be eligible for the $25,000 Grand Prize, to be announced in January 2012.

I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour campaign by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of Johnson’s and received Johnson’s Baby products and a  promotional item and to facilitate my review.

Smart Ones Blog Tour – Staying Healthy!

Spring is always the time of year when I sit back and take a long look at the balance of our lives. For paperwork filing and other reasons, our year-round homeschooling schedule starts on July 1 each year, so I spend my spare moments in May and June taking a look at what’s working and what isn’t, and making plans for the year to come.

One of the things that I’m thinking about this spring is the balance between each of our needs… including my own! Sometimes moms get the short end of the stick when it comes to carving out time to take care of ourselves.  It’s something my friends and I talk about almost every week; I think many moms find themselves caught in this struggle.

Like most moms, I find that I go above and beyond to try to make sure that my kids are staying healthy: from buying and preparing healthy food for them, to making sure they’ve brushed-and-flossed well enough, to lining up all their physical activities (karate, gymnastics, swimming, and more).  I don’t spend the same amount of care and attention on my own well-being, though.  My meals, hygiene (well, I never skip brushing my teeth, but I often have only one leg shaved!), and physical activities are often short-changed when the kids need more of me.

There is a definite ebb and flow to the balance around here. There are some seasons when I find it’s a snap to get in a workout in the morning while the kids are either sleeping (deep winter) or energetic enough to workout with me (high summer), and other months when our balance seems so off that I’m lucky to squeeze in one good workout each week (sick seasons in October or March!).  During some parts of the year, our outside scheduling is calm enough that we all eat a well-balanced, homemade breakfast, lunch, and dinner together – and other weeks, I’m toting a bag of granola bars and a bottle of water, catching a few bites between activities, or swinging by the sub shop for dinner.

I’m finding that as the kids get older, our balance is smoothing out more and more towards the healthy end for all of us – but it’s still not easy. It does help, though, if my needs – from a workout, to time to meditate, socialize, read, or play games – are added to the to-do list along with the kids’ activities.  As I’m looking over our routines again this spring, I’m juggling that balancing act again.

Having the kids a little older means that I can do some of my workouts with them by my side - walking or hiking together – and I can do some while they’re doing their school work (it’s very handy that our stationary bike is in the study with their desks!).

The kids are also more interested in making their own food or helping to cook dinner, and I can take advantage of that to work as a family to prepare some good meals – including making double batches of things or prepping some wraps a day ahead of time, so that when the crunch does hit us, I have something healthy to fall back on.  They love to help me grocery shop too.

In the end, the thing that helps the most is to double-book these activities as “Healthy Choices for Mom” AND “Phys. Ed. or Home Ec. for the Kids!”

I’d love to hear how you manage to fit in healthy choices for yourself… advice is always welcome.

I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour campaign by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of Weight Watchers Smart Ones and received a promotional item and coupons to facilitate my review.

Weight Watchers Smart Ones is making it easier to stay on track with a healthy meal plan without spending time on prep work beforehand. Their products provide a variety of delicious, convenient and portion controlled meals and snacks that contain lean proteins, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. And now they are offering two new breakfast items – like the new Egg, Sausage & Cheese Wrap and the French Toast with Turkey Sausage. Plus, the packaging tells you the Weight Watchers PointsPlus values in each serving, allowing you to conveniently plan for the day. Visit www.eatyourbest.com for more information.

No-Work Spanish – and GIVEAWAY!

I love that so many of my reviews lately have come with a giveaway.  It is fun for me to try products, but even more for me to be able to share them with you!  This week, I have been reviewing a new product for learning Spanish – the bilingual cds from No-Work Spanish, and I get to give a copy of each away – so there will be two winners for this one!

If you’ve been my bloggy friend for a while, you know that my daughter, GoGoGirl, was born in Guatemala.  Our whole family has been working to incorporate more and more Spanish, but none of us spoke it at all before we began the process of adopting her.

It has been very frustrating to me that we’re having such a hard time with it.  I didn’t have a problem learning languages in high school or college – but that was a time when I could concentrate on the work and really focus on my studies.  Now that I’m a full-time homeschooling mom of two, I find that my “Spanish studies” have mostly consisted of Muzzy, Plaza Sesamo, and some songs in the van!  I’m a pro at “abierto / cerrado,” counting, colors, and singing the alphabet, but the actual flow of the language still isn’t there.

I have also tried listening to all-Spanish audio books or podcasts, but my problem there was that, if one of the kids said something or needed my attention for a moment, I could lose the thread of the story and find myself tuning out.

No-Work Spanish is a series of audio books, available on cd or on iTunes, that tell stories bilingually.  You will hear a sentence in English, then the same sentence in Spanish, all the way through the chapter.  Next, you will hear that chapter entirely in Spanish.  I really appreciate the bilingual format!  If I lose track of the story for a moment, I can easily pick it up again at the next English sentence.

I like to be able to hear a story, something much more interesting than lists of vocabulary words or verb forms.  I feel that listening to these stories is helping to give my ear a better feel for the flow of the language.

These audio books are great for working on understanding spoken Spanish.  Each book is read by a different speaker, so having both gives a good chance to practice listening to different voices – one is a man, one is a woman, and they have different pitches, timbres, and speaking speeds.  For those who like to follow along in text, or who want to go back and read what you’ve heard, the cds come with pdfs of the text (these texts are also available free online for those who bought the downloads of the audio).

No-Work Spanish is a great addition to our Spanish studies.  KarateKid and GoGoGirl will happily listen to the stories as we’re driving in the van – and KarateKid is looking forward to the next title coming out, The Case of the Missing Poodle, since he’s a big mystery fan.

If you’d like to try No-Work Spanish, you can click through to their website, fill out a two-line form, and they will email you the first three chapters of one of their titles for free, so you can hear how the audio flows.  You can also listen to samples of No-Work Spanish on their site.

Even better, if you would like to win a copy of Yaks March on Washington or Poster Girl, you can enter here!

  1. Visit No-Work Spanish, then come back here and let me know why you’d like to win!  You can also let me know which title you’d prefer to win, and I will try to honor your request when the random numbers come up.
  2. Follow No-Work Spanish on Facebook, and comment here for an extra entry.  (Also, please post on their wall and let them know I sent you!)
  3. Follow me, MamaGames, on Twitter, and comment here for an extra entry (or just comment if you already follow!).
  4. Subscribe to the Mind Games feed via your favorite feed-reader, and comment here for an extra entry (or just comment if you already subscribe!).
  5. Share about this giveaway on Facebook or Twitter, and comment for an extra entry – up to once a day! If you use Twitter, please include the hashtag #homeschool so I’m sure to see your tweet!

This contest will run until next Thursday, May 12, 2011.  Good luck!

Please remember that although you can enter all of the MamaBuzz giveaways for this product if you want to, you may only win at one MamaBuzz-sponsored site for the No-Work Spanish contest!

This has been a MamaBuzz review.  The audio cds of Yaks March on Washington and Poster Girl were provided to me by No-Work Spanish, but I was not compensated in any other way.  The opinions above are my own.




Snap Fashion Jewelry Fun – and GIVEAWAY!

Do-it-yourself fabric covered buttons that can be used to make interchangeable necklaces, rings, and bracelets were the hit of the house this week as the kids and I reviewed the Snap Fashion Jewelry Studio from SmartLab Toys!

Snap Fashion Jewelry 01

The kids had the box open before I could grab my camera!  Inside, they found the snap maker, the button hardware, circles of fabric, ribbon for a bracelet, glue, gems, and a great 24-page book of instructions and inspiration.

Snap Fashion Jewelry 02

The basic idea behind this crafty kit is that you use the Snap Maker to add fabric to metal and plastic button parts which then snap together into a permanent button. After you’ve made several buttons, you can clip them on and off interchangeably to five bases good for stringing on bracelets, necklaces, keychains, and so on, or the two rings with built-in bases. My kids thought this looked like so much fun and were ready to get started!

Snap Fashion Jewelry 03

This is the Snap Maker in action. It’s very simple – you can use one of the 16 provided cloth circles or use the pink circle template (which stores on the base of the Snap Maker) to cut a circle from any fabric you might have around the house. Thinner fabrics like a basic cotton work best – something thick like felt wouldn’t work well at all. Once you have the fabric chosen, you put it in the Snap Maker, right side down, with the metal button top inside it. Press down once, and the fabric pulls taut over the button top.

Snap Fashion Jewelry 04

Pull the arm up again and add a plastic button bottom to the prong on the arm. Push down hard enough to hear and feel a big click, and your button is done! Just press the release button to pop it out of the Snap Maker. Ta-da!

Snap Fashion Jewelry 05

After you have a button put together with fabric, you can add all kinds of embellishments. The kit includes one set of birthstone “jewels” and a bottle of glue, but I grabbed a couple of our bits-and-bobs containers from our art room to give the kids lots more options. Be careful – the glue contained in the kit takes a while to set & isn’t the strongest. It’s best left for adding ribbons or extra fabric. If you want to add something like a bead or button to the top, you should use a regular craft glue or a glue gun with a very fine tip.

Snap Fashion Jewelry 06

GoGoGirl seemed very pleased with her first pink button, but we had a mini-meltdown when the kit glue wouldn’t hold a purple star sequin onto her creation!

Snap Fashion Jewelry 07

We looked in the book that came with the kit for more ideas for our buttons. It’s really a good set of ideas, presented in a very graphic style with lots of photos and little sidebars. The book talks about making jewelry that speaks about who you are and what you like. It talks about different colors, different fabrics. It suggests using monograms or the birthstone gems, both included, but also goes on to suggest photo transfers, using meaningful fabric (like one of Dad’s old ties or your baby onesie), using the bases and buttons to create lockets, weaving friendship bracelets (and it gives instructions) with bases and buttons on them, pounding leaves onto light fabric, gluing feathers down to fabric, stringing shells between your bases like beads, putting fake flower petals or tulle around the base, creating a belt, a kilt pin, a bobby pin, earrings, key chains, shoe fobs, and more.

After the kids had made several buttons each, they started clipping them onto the bases and making jewelry from them. KarateKid made a button with a neat, pre-embellished fabric from our bits box, and then he used regular craft buttons and pony beads to string with it on a piece of gold elastic to make this neat necklace:

Snap Fashion Jewelry 08

Snap Fashion Jewelry 09

I helped GoGoGirl make a two-layer button with a piece of printed fabric included in the kit and a snippet of eyelet. Here’s where I realized that the thickness of the fabric makes a difference: there was a thick edging on the top of the eyelet that made it very hard for the button to snap together. When I try a two-layer button again, I’ll make sure that both pieces of fabric are quite thin.

GoGoGirl added some pony beads and red ribbon to make her necklace:

Snap Fashion Jewelry 10

Snap Fashion Jewelry 11

Our biggest complaint about this kit? It only comes with enough materials to make 25 buttons! We have lots more ideas! According to the company, refill parts can be provided upon individual request and they hope to have a full refill kit available in stores and online by this fall.

Snap Fashion Jewelry 12

Snap Fashion Jewelry Studio is only one of many neat kits available from SmartLab Toys. The Snap Fashion set retails for $24.99 and is available through SmartLab, Amazon, or many other retailers.

If you shop through SmartLab Toys between now and 6/30/11, you can use the code BLOGBUZZ at checkout to save 25%!

I also get to give away… well, you get to choose your prize!  The winner, to be chosen next Tuesday, May 10, gets to choose ANY kit from SmartLab Toys! Here’s what you do…

  1. Visit SmartLab Toys and look over all the neat kits they offer.  Choose the one you would want to win, and come back here to leave me a comment.  (US/Canada only)
  2. Follow SmartLab Toys on Twitter, then leave a comment for an extra entry.
  3. Follow me, MamaGames, on Twitter, then leave a comment for an extra entry.
  4. Like SmartLab Toys on Facebook, then leave a comment for an extra entry.

Good luck!  ETA: I have also linked this giveaway up through Hip Homeschool Moms – you can head over there to find more great giveaways to enter!

This has been a MamaBuzz review.  The Snap Fashion kit was provided to me by SmartLab Toys for the purposes of this review.  I was not compensated in any other way.  The opinions & children above are my own!